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Vendor Management: Best Practices for Event Planners

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Top event planners wouldn’t be nearly as successful if they didn’t partner with dependable, quality vendors. Vendors help add life to your event designs, bringing in everything from carnival games, arcade games, props, and art installations to AV production, lighting, and waste solutions.  

Unfortunately, if your vendors are unreliable, it can wreak havoc on your events and ultimately damage your reputation. That’s why it's vital to protect yourself and your business with an optimized vendor management strategy for your event planning business. 


What Is Vendor Management?

As an event planner, your ability to pull off spectacular large-scale events rests on your ability to find good third-party vendors. Vendor management is the practice of cultivating those relationships with your vendors and making sure they deliver on their promises. 


How Important Is Vendor Management for Event Planners?

If your vendor relationships are strong, you know your events will go off without a hitch, allowing you to grow your business and bolster your reputation. The last thing you want to do as an event planner is spend all of your time onsite tracking down or babysitting your vendors. 

 Of course, unforeseen events can (and will) occur without warning, but having a standard vendor management system in place typically decreases the risk of disruption, delay, and disappointment. 


5 Vendor Management Best Practices

If you haven’t developed a vendor management strategy yet, now is the time to do it. Follow these best practices to create a plan that works for your business. 


1. Find the Best Vendors

Often, event planners focus entirely on cost when selecting vendors. Obviously, protecting your bottom line is important, but it shouldn't be your only consideration. Look for vendors with a reputation for being on time and professional who can provide solid references from other event planners. And make sure they are compliant with any relevant licensing or certifications.


2. Organize and Centralize Your Information

Being able to see all of your vendor agreements will save you and your team precious time during the planning and proposal process. With a centralized database, you can instantly pull up contact information, current pricing data, and any past communication. You can also quickly identify potential alternate options you have on file in case your preferred vendor is unavailable on your event date. 


3. Be Clear About Expectations

You always want to be upfront in your client relationships, and the same should be true with your vendors. Before you enter into any kind of agreement or contract with your vendor, make sure they are aware of all the event specifics. Laying out your expectations in this way will help the vendor meet them. If those expectations are not met, it will also make it easier for you to know it’s time to part ways and find a new vendor. 


4. Streamline Your Payment Process

You want reliable vendors who are on time. Guess what? They want the same thing from you. If you are late with payments or unclear about your payment process, your vendors may start to think of you as a financial risk and avoid working with you in the future. Stay on top of your records and your payment process to ensure everyone is paid promptly


5. Monitor Vendor Performance

In an ideal world, your best vendors would always stay that way. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. It's important to stay on top of vendor performance to identify any signs of decline or trouble. When evaluating your vendors, you should consider:

  • Product Quality: Good vendors take pride in the condition of their products. If you notice a consistent decline in quality, it may be time to find someone with a better product. 
  • Delivery Times: If the vendor is always late, this reflects poorly on you as the event planner. In the long run, it's worth paying more if it means what you need arrives on time every time. 
  • Responsiveness: Friendly and prompt communication is a sign of professionalism. If it takes a long time to hear back from a vendor, it can cause delays during planning.
  • Pricing Changes: Prices will likely increase gradually over time. However, if you notice a sudden hike in cost, it could indicate financial instability. 

If you notice any of these issues with your vendors, it might be time to look around for new options.


Cultivate Strong Vendor Relationships

The key to success as an event planner is finding vendors you trust to help you execute your vision. You are only as strong as your network, so do everything you can to protect those relationships by implementing an organized management system tailored to your business.